It is one of the most revered environments in professional sports, a sold out, gold-clad crowd pumping up the volume and intimidating visiting teams. But home ice advantage hasn’t meant much lately for a Predators team that’s lost seven of its last 11 games at Bridgestone Arena.
Tuesday’s game against the Golden Knights is just the 12th game of this season and the Predators are in first place, so it’s hardly time to push the panic button. Smashville, however, is where the Preds are supposed to have their greatest advantage and right now they aren’t taking advantage.
In their 8-3 start to the season the Predators are a perfect 5-0 away from home, but only 3-3 in Smashville. And they’re aware of the numbers.
“We’ve addressed that in the room,” head coach Peter Laviolette said Monday. “But that’s just talk, me telling them or the players talking about it. We need to go out and have more conviction to play a better game.”
The downturn in success started in the playoffs last spring when the Preds gave up two goals in the final 5:00 of game five of their opening round playoff series to lose to the Avalanche. Things got even worse in round two with the Jets coming into Bridgestone Arena and beating them in three of four games, including a 5-1 dismantling in game seven.
That loss eliminated the Stanley Cup favorites from the playoffs. And it was especially troubling because of how hard they worked for home ice advantage.
The woes have continued this year with several slow starts, and the Preds now they have to bring more of a sense of urgency to their efforts on home ice.
“We may be too comfortable here,” center Ryan Johansen said. “We are very comfortable because we’ve won so many games here and then maybe we have lapses because we’re focusing on our offense or having an easier game, and other teams are (bringing their) best. We have to be better.”
The Vegas game provides a perfect opportunity for the Preds to reassert their home dominance. The Golden Knights capped their incredible expansion season last year by replacing Nashville as Western Conference champions, so Tuesday is a chance to make a statement.
Smashville will be rocking once again thanks to a 116th consecutive sellout. The fans are consistently doing their part.
It’s time for the Predators to do theirs.